Thursday, May 30, 2024

Town Council Approves 2024 – 2025 Budget

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Stratford Crier Editor’s Note:  At press time the Special Town Council Meeting video had not been posted on YouTube; the minutes of the meeting have also not been released.  The following information is based on reaching out to Town Council members and those in attendance.

At the Special Town Council meeting held Thursday, May 9th, members of both parties spoke to concerns for not raising taxes. Since the revenues of our town are highly dependent on property taxes (homes and motor vehicles), like people on a fixed income, the Council also had to make difficult choices. The budget is a reflection of the Town’s priorities.

The adopted budget decreased the Town’s contribution to the pension by approximately $500,000 from the Mayor’s proposal to roughly offset the $500,000 additional funding to the schools’ operating budget. It similarly decreased the estimated health insurance cost projections by $100,000 to offset $25,000 additional to the Sterling House grant, and $50,000 additional to the Stratford Library grant.

Other changes were relatively small corrections to a few other department lines.  According to Councilman Christopher Green (District 2) “I do not think any of the town side amendments will result in reductions to staff. However, the Library had initially requested $200,000 additional to the Mayor’s proposal and only received $50,000, so they may have to make cuts as the school may have to make cuts. As both entities are separately managed from the town, I cannot speak to what exact cuts will be made based on the increases, but it will still be insufficient funding.”

The meeting was well attended with a full house, and though public comments were not permitted at this meeting, the public responded with applause or silence to what was said. The school budget is the largest single use of funds, and was the subject of most concern, with many of those present holding signs indicating how cuts in that budget will hurt the children in Stratford’s public school system.

The BOE budget passed last night increased school funding to $127,502,725, which was short of the $6.6 million additional needed in order to maintain the current level of services and programs. (The town had relied on COVID related special funds in order to meet the school budget needs, and had not planned for this anticipated deficit).

All town council members expressed their desire to support Stratford children’s education; however the vote to support this budget was 6 For and 4 Against, which, as noted, results in less than necessary funding to maintain even the status quo for schools.

Expressing her dismay at the BOE budget outcome, Kaitlyn Shake, Councilwoman District 7, Town Council Democratic Party Leader, had this to say:

“As party leader it is my job to ensure that our values are reflected in our municipal budget, to serve our children, families, educators, the elderly and all those who call Stratford home. Unfortunately, my fifth budget serving our Town is the most challenging to date. Our Schools are now faced with serious looming cuts that will either affect services immediately or raise the costs of those services a year from now. There are no savings in this budget and it’s directly impacting the quality of education for our children.”

Lisa Carroll-Fabian, a member of the Stratford Board of Education posted this (edited) comment regarding last night’s budget meeting:

Last night’s Town Council Special Meeting was a powerful testament to our community’s unwavering dedication and commitment to our children’s education. As an elected member of the Board of Education, I am deeply moved and inspired by your passion and advocacy.

While the outcome may not have been what we had hoped for, your presence and voices spoke volumes. I am immensely grateful for that. I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to Councilwoman Shake, Councilman Green, Councilman Afryie, and Councilwoman Gibson for their steadfast support and unwavering commitment to our cause. Your leadership and dedication are truly inspiring.

We will report comments from all sides as they come to us.

1 COMMENT

  1. Deeply disappointing budget decision by the majority of Council members. I am most interested in the you tube and minutes of that meeting. The You Tube of the Board of Education meeting at the high school was “lost”. To have another lost certainly does not reflect well on the transparency of Stratford’s government.

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